Hi, this is Barry and welcome to my site. Ghost Stories is a British psychological thriller written and directed by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman. The plot is centred on a man who exposes fake psychics and is approached by an old professor who demands the investigation of three cases that remain unexplained. The cast has Andy Nyman, Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse and Alex Lawther, to name a few. It’s a great film that goes from being a horror to just plain bizarre, leaving the viewers with a ton of questions. Do check it out. Here’s the plot analysis and the ending of the 2017 movie Ghost Stories explained.
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Ghost Stories (2017) Ending Explained
The ending of the 2017 movie Ghost Stories reveals that Professor Goodman is actually in a coma, and the three stories he is hearing narrations of are all inside his subconscious, representing a variety of guilt and regrets. The Ghost Stories are constructed based on the characters, conversations and objects in his hospital room. With this knowledge, we now can go through the film’s events in the linear order of their occurrences.
Ghost Stories (2017): What was real and what wasn’t?
It’s hard to say, but I’m going to go with this – his entire childhood leading up to a lonely adult life where he runs a show that exposes fake psychics is real.
Everything from the mention of Charles Cameron (including the video footages) up until the hospital scene at the end of Ghost Stories is merely a dream running inside Professor Goodman’s mind.
Ghost Stories (2017): Why is Professor Goodman hospitalized?
Professor Goodman attempts to commit suicide by asphyxiating himself in his car but fails. He’s brought to the hospital in a non-responsive state. While it appears Goodman might have been able to make a moderate difference, it’s unlikely that he was able to make a massive impact with his exposés. Like the one shown at the beginning of the movie Ghost Stories, the fake psychics are wealthy, and their lawyers would quickly take down Professor Goodman. It’s perhaps the lonely, unfulfilling life that leads Professor Goodman to commit suicide.
Ghost Stories (2017): Plot Explained Linearly
Let’s start from the beginning.
Professor Goodman’s Youth: Who is Desi Callahan / Kojak?
We’re shown Goodman’s youth via a montage at the beginning of the movie Ghost Stories. Professor Goodman is from a Jewish family that appears to have gone through a rough patch as the kids grew up. Goodman’s sister fell in love with an Asian man and got disowned by her father for this. Goodman grew up bullied for his ethnicity.
Desi Callahan is a mentally challenged boy that the bullies send into a drain tunnel as a prank to read out the tenth number scribbled on the wall. There is no tenth number, and the bullies get a good laugh, but Callahan suffers an asthmatic attack inside. The bullies and Goodman flee the scene leaving Callahan to die in there and remain undiscovered for days.
Goodman grows up with guilt for this as he could have sent for help and possibly saved Callahan’s life, if not, at least have spared the Callahan family the pain of finding the rotting corpse of their son.
The Hospital Conversations, Characters and Objects
The scene where Doctor Mike Priddle and Nurse Simon Rifkind come in to diagnose Professor Goodman, followed by the visit from the janitor, is the crux of the movie. These quick conversations create the narrative inside Professor Goodman’s head, which is the majority of the film. Pay attention to the various objects in this hospital scene. The doll on the hospital chair, for instance, manifests both as the creepy ghost child in one story and as the spooky doll inside the crib in the other. The tube in his mouth becomes dead Callahan’s finger and the little creepy girl’s finger in Goodman’s dream. Doctor Priddle’s “Ha!” becomes the sound of the poltergeist. Rewatch this scene if you can, it’s loaded with details that feature in the dreams.
Who is Charles Cameron?
Charles Cameron is Dr Mike Priddle’s professor. Priddle mentions this in a short line while examining the comatose Goodman, “Well, as my old professor Charlie Cameron used to say – Let us hope his dreams are as sweet“.
Professor Goodman ends up using this name to create a fictional character who is a pioneer in the field of exposing fake psychics. In this fiction, Cameron also goes missing, and one day, Goodman gets a tape from Cameron asking him to come to a trailer numbered 79. Number 79 is one of the numbers on the wall of the drain tunnel that the bullies make Callahan read. Ghost Stories is splashed with these numbers throughout.
Cameron gives Professor Goodman a task that comprises three mysteries and asks him to come back and report on them. These are the three ghost stories, and we’ll go through them one at a time.
Ghost Story 1 – Tony Matthews: The Little Ghost Girl
Tony Matthews is a made-up name given to the janitor who visits Goodman’s room. Tony narrates his story of the days he was the nightshift guard at an abandoned mental asylum where he was haunted by a creepy young girl who calls out to him as “dada”.
Tony talks about his daughter, who is in a vegetative state and that he stopped visiting her. After the ghost incident, Tony goes back to meet his daughter, and when he does, her heart skips a beat.
Ghost Story 1 is all about Goodman’s guilt of not meeting his vegetative father often enough and giving up a normal life where he could have been a husband and a father (dada). We’re shown a quick glimpse of Goodman sitting with his comatose father.
Ghost Story 2 – Simon Rifkind: Monster in the woods
Simon Rifkind is the nurse who walks in with Dr Priddle to take a look at Professor Goodman. In Goodman’s head, Simon is a character who has locked himself in his house and is afraid to leave.
When Goodman meets Simon, he narrates a story of him driving back one night and hitting a satyr, a half-man half-goat beast. His car shuts off, and Simon desperately calls for help. The service centre person says help will arrive in a couple of minutes. Note here that the man on the phone is Dr Priddle’s voice, who also mispronounces ‘Rifkind’.
Before long, Simon is chased by the satyr and then attacked by a tree monster. When Goodman goes back to that spot in the woods, he sees nothing but a stump that could be easily mistaken for a giant face in the night. Goodman also sees a pale dying version of himself in his car.
Ghost Story 2 is about the “Locked-in” syndrome, a condition where the patient is conscious and can think and reason but is unable to speak or move – Goodman’s Condition. This story also gives a glimpse of Goodman’s failed self-asphyxiation in his car, as mentioned by Dr Priddle in the end.
Ghost Story 3 – Mike Priddle: Dead wife and child
Goodman’s mind makes Mike Priddle a wealthy businessman who lost his wife to childbirth. When Goodman meets Priddle, he tells him about the incident at home where he was haunted by a poltergeist. Priddle claims that he was visited by the ghost of his pregnant wife, who died giving birth to a demon child.
Right after narrating the story, Mike Priddle blows his brains out with a shotgun. This is influenced by Dr Mike Priddle in the real world besides Professor Goodman’s hospital bed, saying that a sure-shot suicide would be a shotgun in the mouth.
Ghost Story 3 talks about Goodman’s guilt of abandoning the possibility of a wife and child.
Ghost Stories (2017) Explained: What is really going on?
We continue to witness Goodman’s subconscious. After checking out the three stories, Professor Goodman goes back to Charles Cameron to tell him that the brain sees what it wants to see. Right after, Cameron rips his face open to reveal that he’s Mike Priddle. The trailer and the landscape don’t exist, and Priddle tears the fabric of space and takes Goodman down memory lane.
We’re shown the incident with Callahan and how Goodman simply ran away and didn’t tell anyone about it. We also see Priddle feed cat food to a baby. I’m not too clear what this was about; perhaps Goodman lived a lonely life with a pet cat when he could have also had a family? Barty could be the name of Goodman’s cat.
A rotting Callahan shows up and attacks Goodman and then drags him towards a bed, looking at which Goodman yells, “not again”. Goodman’s subconscious is remembering that he landed himself in a coma thanks to his failed suicide attempt. This subconscious world is falling apart to remind him that he’s lying in a hospital bed in a vegetative state. “not again” possibly means that Goodman has been going through these terrible dreams in loops only to realize that he’s hospitalized and is in a coma.
Ghost Stories (2017): Meaning of the movie
The Ghosts in Ghost Stories are not ghouls but regrets. Here’s what Mike Priddle says to Goodman inside his subconscious.
What you’ve actually been doing with your life isn’t helping others. It’s running from your greatest fear which is that there’s more than the here and now. And that every action you’ve ever taken or didn’t take has had an effect. It’s left a little trace—a ghost of itself.
Professor Goodman grew old, filled with regrets. He ran away from a regular family life with the consolation of helping others. His job as the exposer of fake psychics probably never panned out and was unrewarding, considering people’s blind faith and the power of wealth that the fakers possessed.
The ghosts of Goodman’s past continued to haunt him until he decided to commit suicide. Unfortunately, the attempt fails, and now Goodman has to live on haunted eternally by his regrets. Yikes!
What did you think about the ending of Ghost Stories? Do drop your thoughts in the comments below.
Barry is a technologist who helps start-ups build successful products. His love for movies and production has led him to write his well-received film explanation and analysis articles to help everyone appreciate the films better. He’s regularly available for a chat conversation on his website and consults on storyboarding from time to time.
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